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How to encourage customers to be savvier with their water usage to help them save money

From the Knowledge Centre

As the prices we’re all paying for every day essentials continue to rise and the average household water bill in the UK is set to hit £448 per year, many of us are looking for ways to rein in our spending. When the costs associated with consumption are clearly visible – anything from the weekly food shop to filling up the family car – that level of awareness can be easy to achieve, but that’s not always the case.

The amount of water their household uses is something that many people either overlook or seriously underestimate. Concerningly, new research from Water UK reveals that 94% of people underestimate the amount of water they use per day which means many could be paying for more than they need to.

As affordability becomes a concern for more and more bill payers, realising that about 12% of a typical gas heated household’s energy bill relates to heating water could help to drive some changes. With the average household energy bill currently reaching £2,100 per year, reducing outgoings where possible would be welcomed by most.

Water companies play an important role in educating customers on how to manage and regulate water usage. Improving how they engage with customers about consumption will help providers meet PR24 targets to have a clearer understanding of customers and communities and help them play their part in reducing water consumption.

What is the sector already doing?

Best practice across the sector means that most water companies already dedicate a good deal of time and effort to educating customers about the benefits of managing their consumption. Ofwat and the CCW (Consumer Council for Water) also offer advice and guidance on the subject – from simple things like taking a shower instead of a bath to having a plumber check internal plumbing for leaks – so there’s plenty of information available to give customers the tools they need to take control of their usage.

How can providers communicate information effectively?

Making that information accessible, however, is the challenge water companies face. Encouraging customers to take ownership of their consumption will call for significant behavioural changes across a whole customer base so companies should be looking at long-term, integrated communications campaigns with consistent and constant messaging.

Every element of a campaign – from large scale activities like TV advertising to a simple conversation between a customer and a contact centre agent – is an opportunity to reinforce the importance of reducing per capita consumption. But it’s vital to remember that customers receive and absorb information in different ways.

Segmentation - being able to drill down into a customer base to identify similarities and preferences – will help water companies tailor messages and use specific channels that are most likely to engage the customer.

Amongst younger demographics, for example, there’s a preference for digital communication. According to our research, text messaging is most effective for these groups with 51% of 16 to 21 year olds and the same proportion of 22 to 25 year olds choosing it.

Social media has become another effective customer service platform for water providers, with more than half of the world (59% 4.76 billion people) now using it. Content must be engaging and informative, so creating short videos with graphics to outline water saving tips will capture the attention of some customers more effectively than just text.

Older or more vulnerable customers may be less comfortable with digital communications so there’s still a need for traditional channels. Paper billing can include relevant information, and printing key messages or contact points onto envelopes can also be effective, while reaching out at community level through supermarkets, community centres and local charities can help to capture consumers that don’t have easy access to digital channels.

Final thoughts

Being proactive and innovative is key to educating customers about reducing water consumption. Tech-enabled management systems can identify those with the highest rates of consumption so they can be contacted directly with tailored support, and customer service teams should be aware of customer preferences to help them make contact quickly and effectively.

Messaging should be easy to understand, constant, accessible across a number of platforms, and frontline agents should have the training and tools they need to support customers as they work towards reducing their water usage.

As rising bills continue to present a challenge for many people, water providers must take the opportunity to support customers by helping them to manage their consumption. Signposting where and how information can be accessed and using a variety of channels to deliver key messages will help to alleviate not just the financial costs to customers, but also the environmental impact of excess water consumption.

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